They say necessity is the mother of invention. They also say some people make a virtue out of necessity. You could say the technology industry is doing a bit of both to keep ahead in interesting times. While technological progress is exploding, a deep economic downturn is making companies cut their budgets while embracing new technology.
It turns out that what Faceb-ook did with its website and Apple did with iPhone is also affecting the core of corporate networks. They are being thro-wn open to outside forces the way these consumer Internet companies threw open their systems to third-party "apps."
I got a first-hand view of it last week in Bangalore when Hewlett-Packard Company educated us on some cutting-edge practices and progress. HP is now betting on SDNs - or software-defined networks. This essentially means the ability to manipulate the core of a computer network by using software to make it flexible - a bit like a hotel where there is a superhuman who does the work of a receptionist, valet, bell captain and duty manager.
Virtualisation, the business of using software and design to do what separate pieces of hardware did earlier, is catching on big time. This is making old fashioned data centres somewhat miniaturised.
As Faisal Paul, HP's head of marketing and solutions in the enterprise (corporate) business puts it: "Virtualisation has marginalised the data centre because computing has become powerful."
Another fallout of the software-driven networking revolution is that networks can be easily configured to the BYOD (bring your own device) regi-me. With younger employees enjoying their own preferences between Android, Windows, BlackBerry or iOS (iPhone, iPad) devices, companies like HP are able to combine security features while letting young workers choose their OS. Operating systems used to be called 'religions' in the IT industry. Now, you could say the industry has turned secular.
At the core of HP's strategy is its embracing of open standards in networking. Think of it like a pizza base approach where the company or its partners add software 'toppings' to the same machines. In a way, this is doing to computer networks what smartphones did to MP3 players and cameras - folding separate parts in.
(The writer's travel and stay were sponsored by HP)